WEEKI WACHEE — On Weeki Wachee mermaid Samantha Maywell’s wrist is a yellow band that reads, “Have Faith.”
In an envelope with $10 and a letter, it was dropped in a collection box by a 10-year-old girl during a fundraiser at Texas Roadhouse to help Maywell, 24, pay her medical bills after nearly losing her left leg last month in a boating accident off the coast of Hernando Beach.
That 10-year-old girl’s name is Faith, Maywell said, and she’s undergoing chemotherapy to treat the cancer in her leg.
“It made my day,” Maywell said. “It’s times like these you realize how many good people are out there.”
“The good does outweigh the bad,” said Maywell’s mother, Deanna Maywell.
Undergoing physical therapy three times a week, Maywell spent much of the last month doing oftentimes painful exercises to keep agile the tendons in her ankle and leg.
“I’m doing OK,” Maywell said. “Some days, it hurts bad. And other days it’s painless.”
Fellow mermaids and members of the community have been supportive of Maywell since her injury, appearing earlier this month at a Texas Roadhouse fundraiser that gathered almost a thousand dollars to help pay medical expenses, said park Media Relations Specialist, John Athanason. Another thousand came through a state park fund, as well as fundraisers by Chick-fil-A and Monster Transmission, with further funds possibly coming from future events.
“It really reaffirms that faith we have in our community,” Athanason said.
About $1,500 also came from a Facebook page created by Maywell’s sister, titled, “Please Help Mermaid Samantha,” which continues to accept donations for the mermaid and mother of one.
“We got her a dry-erase board and we’ve been practicing her numbers,” Maywell said of her 5-year-old daughter. “Whenever I was in the hospital she drew me a bunch of pictures.”
Today Maywell will have the staples removed from a leg many feared she would lose. When the trauma team at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point paged the doctor down on Aug. 22, Maywell said, it was initially to perform an amputation.
On the night of her injury, another boat nearby drifted toward the pontoon boat Maywell was aboard, and she went to the back of it and sat, attempting to push the other boat away when a large wave struck and threw her into the propeller.
“I heard the guy in the other boat go, ‘No,’ ” Maywell said. “On the boat ride back I had it in my mind that it wasn’t coming back, and (her friend Amy) said, ‘It’ll be OK. It’ll be OK.’ ”
“And I said, ‘Amy, I’ve seen my leg,’ ” she added. “I thought it was gone.”
The propeller cut her ankle to the bone and struck the main artery, Maywell said, which surgeons were able to fix, but the main artery in her leg was never severed, allowing blood flow.
Paramedics kept her calm in the ambulance on the way to the emergency room, Maywell said, where she kept holding onto a paramedic’s pant leg, until they asked her if she’d like to hold their hand.
“I just wanted to hold onto something,” she said.
At first the doctor was not sure whether Maywell would regain full functioning in her leg and foot, she said, but she is making a strong recovery and doctors now say she should be able to go back to her regular activity.
She can’t put any pressure on her leg for three months, but once she can, doctors will have a clearer picture of how much longer her leg will need to heal, Maywell said.
Since her injury, the mermaid looks at the water differently, she said, but suspects she’ll pick up right where she left off at the park, like a second nature.
“I’m glad I’m still alive,” she said. “It opened my eyes to life.”